White Coat Underground

I’ve written a number of times about Oprah’s support for absurd medical claims, and Dr. David Gorski does a great job detailing the history of Oprah’s ability to elevate quacks from obscurity to stardom. Given her latest debacle of taking Jenny McCarthy into her fold, I though I’d explore her website’s health section a bit, just to see what’s going on. It turns out Oprah’s website is the epicenter of the medical crank-o-sphere. Let’s take a little trip.

All About Homeopathy

Oprah has a nice, long section on the pre-scientific religion of homeopathy. It’s so internally inconsistent that it’s hard to believe my CPU is still intact.

Homeopathy is based on the Law of Similars, a principle of “like cures like.”

[...]

A key principle with homeopathy is that energy–called a vital force–lies within each one of us. Health problems are said to develop if this vital force or energy is blocked or disrupted. In fact, homeopathy views symptoms of illness as normal responses of the body as it attempts to regain health.

Which is it, similars, or vitalism? Both are pre-scientific—nearly pre-literate—ideas that have nothing to do with the way the body works.

Homeopathy treatment is similar to how a vaccination or immunization works. The immune system becomes stimulated with tiny doses of diluted substances. These diluted substances then help the body build its own defenses.

No, no, no! Homeopathy is in no way similar to vaccination. Vaccination depends on biologically sound, easy-to-evaluate manipulation of the immune system. You can measure the antibody response provoked by a vaccine. You cannot measure anything provoked by homeopathy because the only thing homeopathy produces is a bill.

Is Homeopathy Proven to Work?

There are different theories behind homeopathy. But lack of convincing evidence is a big concern with homeopathy’s acceptance by conventional medical doctors.

Critics claim that homeopathic remedies are so diluted, the only benefit received is placebo, a positive outcome that may be imagined.

Still, there is some evidence to show that homeopathic remedies may be helpful. This is especially true when it comes to improving chronic conditions such as allergies or asthma.

No! Homeopathy’s “lack of convincing evidence” is not some problem we uptight “conventional doctors” have—it is the fundamental problem (along with the absurdity of it) with homeopathy. It has not been shown to work. This is rather important in medicine.

Hosting information about homeopathy fulfills Ullman’s Law—bringing up homeopathy in a serious medical discussion gets you justifiably laughed out of the room.

Is there hope?

Relying on a talk show host for medical information is always problematic. It’s also not that easy to translate medical information into everyday language. Oprah has unique reach, so she has a unique responsibility.

And her site isn’t devoid of good information. For example, she has a short piece debunking so-called blood type diets. But Oprah’s over-reliance on her intuition rather than competent medical experts insures a mediocre future (that, and her hiring of Jenny McCarthy, doyenne of the disease promotion movement).

Like it or not, what Oprah does matters. We need to hold her accountable for her actions.

Comments

  1. #1 catgirl
    June 2, 2009

    That’s odd. She says people don’t accept things that have no evidence like that’s a bad thing.

  2. #2 Blake Stacey
    June 2, 2009

    Homeopathy treatment is similar to how a vaccination or immunization works.

    ZOMG HOMEOPATHY CAUSES AUTISM!!!

  3. #3 Mu
    June 2, 2009

    We’ve mentioned that before on Orac’s site. But the good part is, highly diluted mercury not only causes autism, it also cures it homeopathically. So it’s all a natural cycle.

  4. #4 Denice Walter
    June 2, 2009

    Is there a homeopathic cure for woo-belief/*disease promotion*/magical thinking? Suppose a few of “us” comment on blogs like Oprah’s (or other equally whimsy-based so-called medical/health information sites) amidst the throngs of the faithful?

  5. #5 gg
    June 2, 2009

    Blake wrote: “ZOMG HOMEOPATHY CAUSES AUTISM!!!”

    And since homeopathic materials are entirely water, we now know that water causes autism. All anti-vax people should stop drinking water, immediately…

  6. #6 Pliny-the-in-Between
    June 2, 2009

    A recent Newsweek had a cover article on Oprah’s predilections for pseudoscience.

  7. #7 Egaeus
    June 3, 2009

    Well, there are definitely two potentially chronic conditions treatable by homeopathy, depending on how the remedy is administered. Not only that, but the empirical evidence is solidly behind homeopathy. Of course, if you bring up dehydration and hypoglycemia to a homeopath, they get all offended.

  8. #8 The Necromancer
    June 3, 2009

    I’m the last person to want to defend Oprah, but your glib dismissal of alternative medicine is as equally disturbing as her support of it. Vitalism is in no way a “pre-literate” idea, and was fundamental in medicine until the early 20th c. Medicine has a history, and it reminds us how skeptical we should be of the latest new medical discovery. Homeopathy and sympathetic relationships are not “science”, and talk-show hosts should definitely not be peddling medical ideas, but we will all be truly lost when we immediately value “expertise” above and beyond our own intuition.

  9. #9 jarofthoughts
    June 3, 2009

    While probably not the cause of stupidity, homeopathy is most certainly a sympthome.
    Some people have this strange attraction to “alternative” medicine. There is no such thing. There is only medecine that works, and the other stuff.

    Period.

  10. #10 Ranson
    June 3, 2009

    but we will all be truly lost when we immediately value “expertise” above and beyond our own intuition

    I don’t value expertise. I value evidence. Experts tend to use evidence to back their opinions*. I’ll take that over some schmuck peddling an “intuitive” treatment any day. “Intuition” is what gave us Jenny McCarthy and her magic boobs as a force in medicine.

    As jarofthoughts above said, there is only medicine that works, and medicine that doesn’t.

    *Please note that experts can talk out of their ass, as well. That’s why the evidence is important.

  11. #11 PalMD
    June 3, 2009

    If you follow the link you will see a bit about the history of vitalism. Vitalist ideas extend back into pre-literate times. A more “formal” vitalism has more modern roots, in the middle ages. The fact that vitalism endures in any way is embarassing.

  12. #12 Anonymous
    June 3, 2009

    So what’s the deal with Dr. Oz? Is he still affiliated with Oprah? Is it too much to expect him to exert some quality control?

    I saw him once on Oprah’s show (It was at the gym! I couldn’t change channels!) and I thought he was pretty reasonable, although the questions he was asked were beyond inane.

  13. #13 Dana Ullman
    June 3, 2009

    A new study was just published in a journal, called eCAM (published by Oxford University Press), a journal that has become the most respected peer-review publication in the field of alternative and complementary medicine (this journal’s impact factor is 2.55). Of special interest is the fact that this study has repeated shown that homeopathically potentized doses have dramatic effects on various kinds of cancer cells, not just in the short-term but the long-term. This research also shows that various homeopathic medicines have dramatic effects on gene expression (this is the type of evidence that conventional drug companies LOVE to see for their drugs…and there is increasing evidence that homeopathic medicines have this profound effect).

    Sunila ES, Kuttan R, Preethi KC, Kuttan G. Dynamized Preparations in Cell Culture. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. eCAM 2009;6(2)257-263 doi:10.1093/ecam/nem082
    http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/6/2/257?etoc

    ABSTRACT:
    Although reports on the efficacy of homeopathic medicines in animal models are limited, there are even fewer reports on the in vitro action of these dynamized preparations. We have evaluated the cytotoxic activity of 30C and 200C potencies of ten dynamized medicines against Dalton’s Lymphoma Ascites, Ehrlich’s Ascites Carcinoma, lung fibroblast (L929) and Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cell lines and compared activity with their mother tinctures during short-term and long-term cell culture. The effect of dynamized medicines to induce apoptosis was also evaluated and we studied how dynamized medicines affected genes expressed during apoptosis. Mother tinctures as well as some dynamized medicines showed significant cytotoxicity to cells during short and long-term incubation. Potentiated alcohol control did not produce any cytotoxicity at concentrations studied. The dynamized medicines were found to inhibit CHO cell colony formation and thymidine uptake in L929 cells and those of Thuja, Hydrastis and Carcinosinum were found to induce apoptosis in DLA cells. Moreover, dynamized Carcinosinum was found to induce the expression of p53 while dynamized Thuja produced characteristic laddering pattern in agarose gel electrophoresis of DNA. These results indicate that dynamized medicines possess cytotoxic as well as apoptosis-inducing properties.

    Is this woo enough for you…or should we call your unscientific attitudes towards homeopathy “whooops”? Yeah, you are mistaken…big surprise…science and medicine are verbs (welcome to the future).

  14. #14 Mu
    June 3, 2009

    Amazing article, makes you wonder why the author didn’t get the Nobel price last year. It clearly shows that all our notions of “water has no memory” are completely false and Avogadro’s number plays no role in dilutions. And the cases where the mother tincture does nothing, and the 30C does, unbelievable. I mean, the only thing still valid in modern science after this is Einstein’s no faster than lightspeed, and that only barely.

  15. #15 PalMD
    June 3, 2009

    Full text is freely available.

    http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/6/2/257?etoc

    Controls, anyone?

  16. #16 Mu
    June 3, 2009

    They did controls PalMD, ethanol did nothing, unlike the ethanol dynamized with memory at the right rates. What really gets me is the claimed difference in efficacy of the 30C and 200C rates, there is clearly an optimal amount of nothing you can give.

  17. #17 Dana Ullman
    June 3, 2009

    “Optimal amount of nothing”? OR…perhaps there IS something in homeopathic medicines afterall. Perhaps dilution WITH succussion in glass bottles actually changes the structure in the water in which the sick person becomes hypersensitive to the substance which would cause in healthy people the similar syndrome that the sick person is experiencing. Perhaps there IS hypersensitivity from similars (or what might better be called “resonance”). Oh, excuse me, this is common knowledge (except to skeptics who seem to think like a mechanistic typewriter or a rotary telephone). Move on now…it is time. Wake up and smell the Coffee 30C.

  18. #18 Mu
    June 3, 2009

    Dana, you don’t seem to have realized how stupid cell culture experiments are to prove homeopathy (since they negate the whole principle). Unless the cell culture medium has some form of magical immune system that can be stimulated by “like with like”, any effect seen in that article has nothing to do with homeopathy but all with some cytotoxic compounds working directly on the cells in extremely high dilution. Unless of course you just moved the goal post 180 degrees and are telling us the homeopathic concoctions work directly on affected cells, not via stimulation.

  19. #19 daedalus2u
    June 3, 2009

    Pretty poor study. Lying about 2% alcohol not affecting anything? 0.4% blood alcohol is considered lethal.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_alcohol

    On the other hand, the target organ for alcohol is the brain. If you are brain-dead enough to believe in homeopathy, maybe 2% alcohol does do nothing to you.

  20. #20 daedalus2u
    June 3, 2009

    The original post (can anything be done to change Oprah’s woo) reminds me of a fable. It was about someone who by accident put salt in their coffee instead of sugar. Because salt and coffee were both expensive, the attempt was made to salvage the coffee by putting something else in it to counteract the salt. They tried sugar, that didn’t work, then pepper, that didn’t work, then cinnamon, that didn’t work, then olive oil, that didn’t work, they went though the whole village trying every different thing that anyone would suggest. Each time they tried something it just got worse. As the mixture became more and more of a witch’s brew, they became more and more desperate to find something that would fix it. They even tried nitric oxide, but even that couldn’t fix it ;)

    Eventually they came to the last house in the village, the house where the strange person lived; the person who fixed all the broken things in the village. At least they though he was strange because the clothes he wore weren’t like the rest of the villagers, he acted kind of weird and was always sitting on his porch, rocking, reading and thinking instead of watching TV. Some whispered that maybe he had Asperger’s, as if that was a bad thing. The whole village was now following behind, with the villagers wanted to know how to fix the coffee. One of them went up to him, told him the story and asked if he knew what to do? They showed him the coffee and asked him if he needed to taste the coffee to know what to do. He said that would not be necessary and yes he did know what to do. He said the thing to do is throw the coffee out and start over. The most important thing to know about fixing things is to know that there are some things that just can’t be fixed. When something is fundamentally and irretrievably wrong, it can’t be fixed, you have to start over.

    That is where Oprah’s woo is. So fundamentally and irretrievably wrong that it can’t be fixed, you can only throw it out and start over.

  21. #21 Dana Ullman
    June 3, 2009

    Daedalus2u’s comment about the 2% alcohol and comparing it to .4% blood alcohol is hilarious in its ignorance. You’d think that skeptics here would try to alert him of his not-so-fancy footwork with numbers. With his logic, beer with its 3-10% alcohol will kill ya. Your credibility just left the room…

  22. #22 daedalus2u
    June 3, 2009

    The paper said maximum alcohol content was 2%. I presume that was in the final tissue culture media.

    According to homeopathy, the more dilute something is the more powerful. Maybe that is why they said 2% has no effect. They tried 0.0000000000000000001% alcohol and it did nothing, so they could say that the “weaker” 2% would really do nothing.

  23. #23 Clay
    June 4, 2009

    Damn. The writing in that paper is horrible. As far as I could tell, the author never actually said how much of the homeopathic tincture he used. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t this:
    “Mother tincture and dynamized medicines (200C and 30C) 20 µl/ml were added to a MEM with 10% goat serum (5 ml) containing 1 million DLA cells/ml (suspension culture) and incubated for 48 h.”
    just mean that they used ? amount of a (200C or 30C) x 20 µl/ml solution added to 5 ml of a 10% goat serum solution? So, daedalus could well be right, since the dosage is never stated.

    Also, Ullman, I’m curious how you would explain the mother tincture, that is, the non-homeopathic solution, working so much better than the homeopathic remedies in nearly all of the cases. I’d also be interested in how you would reconcile your statement that, “Perhaps there IS hypersensitivity from similars (or what might better be called “resonance”).”, and the authors’ quote of Hahneman, “Every agent that acts upon the vitality, every medicine, deranges more or less the vital force, and causes a certain alteration in the health of the individual for a longer or a shorter period.”

  24. #24 Michael Simpson
    June 4, 2009

    Remember, Dana Ullman’s opinions aren’t valid for anything except recounting the history of homeopathy. He was thrown out of Wikipedia, a den of woo and useless scientific information, which indicates he doesn’t even meet the broad unscientific standards of Wikipedia.

    Dana, when you say something like “You’d think that skeptics here would try to alert him of his not-so-fancy footwork with numbers. With his logic, beer with its 3-10% alcohol will kill ya,” you’re going to fail to convince anyone. One pint of beer is not going to kill you because the alcohol is metabolized and diluted, so it ends up, over an hour being less than 0.02% in the blood (depending on lots of factors, but that’s an average). Drink a case of beer, chase it with whiskey, and yeah, in a normal person, 0.4% is going to kill you.

    So, get your science right. I know that’s difficult, considering that your whole life’s being is invested in non-science, but get some basic facts correct. Oh, never mind, you think diluted compounds actually have an effect. Never mind, you don’t get it.

  25. #25 Michael Simpson
    June 4, 2009

    From Dana Ullman’s poorly designed support for fake science:

    Maximum ethanol concentration used in the experiment was 2%, which will not produce any effect on cells.

    Umm, really? I used to get apoptosis in cultured cells at 0.2% ethanol. I’ve read literally hundreds of dose-response studies of ethanol effects on cultured cells, and 2% would probably kill 10-25% of cells in culture.

    Oh, by the way, the authors of Dana’s poorly designed and written article work here. I don’t mean to be critical, it’s a cancer center that focuses on anti-science remedies.

    What the Wikipedia nutjobs and Dana think is that one poorly designed research article should be given weight over the vast majority of research that says “uhhh…no.” Great science needs to be repeated by a number of institutions. Maybe these individuals at Amala have something, I doubt it. But where is it confirmed by researchers, say at UCLA or Harvard? They’d be all over it if they thought it worked.

    When I was in grad school (in Biochemistry, and I was quite well trained in cell culture), every grad student in our lab had to investigate alt med (we didn’t call it that back then) ideas to see if there were any grains of science in there. Our professor thought it was good critical training, but also, he wanted to know if there was even a chance that we didn’t completely understand biochemistry. For example, one grad student read that a pregnant woman could urinate into dran-o to determine the sex of of the baby (this was back before ultrasound days, for those of you who think it’s idiotic to do this). It kind of worked, but the statistics seem to indicate it was random.

    I did a project to determine if homeopathic potions had any relevance on isolated rat hepatocytes. The only effect I could find was cell death due to a slight dilution of the cell culture medium. LOL.

    Back to real science. Since water molecules cannot have a memory of anything based on our vast knowledge of physics, chemistry, and you know, science, to discuss Dana’s comments is really a waste of time.

  26. #26 James Pannozzi
    June 4, 2009

    @Michael Simpson

    Now let’s see if I have this correct. You claim to be a well trained biochemist. OK, excellent.

    Next you make the rather incredible statement that:

    “Back to real science. Since water molecules cannot have a memory of anything based on our vast knowledge of physics, chemistry, and you know, science, to discuss Dana’s comments is really a waste of time.”

    Now here we have a BIG problem. How can you possibly know that without already having an omniscient knowledge of all physics, all chemistry, all undiscovered facts about water molecules. It is simply IMPOSSIBLE, even to state what you just said as an opinion – and as a scientist you know damn well that there are plenty of unexplained anomalies in the theory of water molecules.

    Perhaps a related matter of concern for you is how a head full of neurons could have a memory of anything.

    Next comes the question of is there any research, ANY RESEARCH, by competent well credentialed scientists, that there could be anything like a retention or “water” memory or anything of the sort that might just indicate the need for additional research in Homeopathy??

    Well, let’s see, a quick search promptly turns up the name of a Homeopathy skeptic named M. Ennis. She published an article in Inflammation Research (vol 53, p181) in which she demonstrated a biological effect caused by a high dilution solution in which all the molecules of the stimulant had been diluted away, and yet the biological effect still happened as though they were there.

    This experiment, and others like it, have been repeated.

    Ennis, remains a skeptic of Homeopathy but admitted that her experiment, originally designed to disprove the “water memory” theory, gave unexpected positive results. The experiment was repeated by others with mostly positive results. It continues to be repeated, and others like it, with improved controls to this day (Inflammation Research and other journals) and the effect remains unexplained.

    Your entire position, if you pardon me saying so (and this irrespective of the great respect I hold for biochemistry and related sciences) is based not on science but on arrogance and on a compulsive denialism of alternative medicine.
    Our VAST knowledge of physics, and everything else, is not fixed and is subject to update and revision by the process of discovery.

    That’s what research is all about and therefore, pardon me but I would like to hear what Dana Ullman has to say, it is not a waste of time, and the research he cites and more like it could quite possibly be the first major medical breakthrough of the 21st century.

    If you have convinced yourself of inadequacies in that research, by all means send a letter to the publishing journal, engage in debate and offer your scientific reasons rather than engaging in preremptory dismissal here in a blog based on your personal conceptions of what is or is not possible.

  27. #27 Patience
    June 4, 2009

    Just a heads up–you’ve been featured on Jezebel: http://jezebel.com/5278888/is-oprah-selling-snake-oil

    It was very odd to see one of the feminist blogs I read regularly link here, but also encouraging.

  28. #28 Michael Simpson
    June 4, 2009

    @Dana

    Typical of your strawman argumentative methodology, you attack me rather than try to show some semblance of scientific reasoning. You’ve been debunked in so many locations by so many different individuals, I find no reason to pile on to dismissing your science denialism. Your lack of knowledge has been quite reasonably been demolished here.

    I’m sure your anti-science friends over at Wikipedia will gladly carry the banner for you. Otherwise, don’t be attacking me, because you are still angry at how I got you banned from Wikipedia or because you perceive that I am somehow less educated or knowledgeable about these things than you are.

  29. #29 prolix
    June 4, 2009

    Skeptic claims there is no evidence to prove homeopathy. Supporter produces study. Skeptic says study is flawed, and besides doesn’t prove what it’s supposed to. Flurry of name calling ensues. Welcome to the scientific community, where matters a fact are decided calmly and rationally.

  30. #30 PalMD
    June 4, 2009

    Calmly? Have you ever been to a scientific meeting???

    No, science is brutal.

  31. #31 bob
    June 4, 2009

    prolix: this is a blog, not the “scientific community”. You’re also ignoring prior plausibility, which is important in science. Homeopathy has virtually none, because its principles (like cures like, law of infinitesmals) run contrary to ALL of well-established physics and chemistry. Thus, a single poorly-done study supporting homeopathy is virtually (if not utterly) worthless. You’re also ignoring the history many skeptics have with Dana Ullman, which explains much of their name-calling.

    Nice work judging us all from your pedestal of calmness and rationality, though. Don’t trip on your way down!

  32. #32 Michael Simpson
    June 4, 2009

    Yeah, who thinks that science is collegial? I remember attending a small conference at my grad school in geology. A couple of geologists/paleontologists were ridiculing the idea that a bolide impact ended the dinosaurs. They made fun of Luis Alvarez. It was hysterical. I wonder if those two ate several servings of crow.

    PalMD is right. Science is brutal. That’s how the best ideas are defended and evolve to even better ideas. Pseudoscience pushing individuals whine that everyone is picking on them (I hear violins), and stand on ideas that are barely advanced from alchemy. Dana, despite being asked the same question at least 1000 times online, and who knows how many in person, never is able to provide one bit of scientific evidence or even a good scientific theory on how water has memory. He attempts to counter that I don’t know everything there is to know about chemistry. Well, I don’t. But I do know that a few electrons cannot carry a “memory” of complex molecules, because it is a physical impossibility. Science cannot and will not depend on magical ideas or appeals to some supernatural power. I’ll leave that to the creationists and homeopaths.

    Finally, Dana, and just about every alt-med woo pushing individual, fails miserably when it comes to giving excessive weight to one or two studies based on suspect, if not fraudulent results. Dana always brings the same articles to any argument, and I really don’t have time to debunk them. I’m sure a quick search here or at Science Based Medicine will give you more civil (well, sometimes civil, it’s really funny these days) descriptions of his research. Yet thousands of studies, most of them performed in good-faith, cannot support the homeopathic hypothesis. But this story is the same for acupuncture, vaccine denialism, and whatever else is out there.

    I have no patience for Dullman, because I’ve battled him for 4 years across various places (I used to use a nom de blog, much like Orac and PalMD, so you’re not going to be able to trace this name to those battles). Dana is anti-science. Dana pushes pseudoscience. This isn’t name calling, it’s identifying him accurately.

    Oh, trust me on this point. After a few posts by PalMD on homeopathy (if he chooses to do so, this isn’t a call for him to do so), Dullman will be beat up by everyone, and he will slink away to another blog. I know his modus operandi, I know which studies he’ll bring up, I know his lack of skills in strawman arguments, and I know how he responds to science. Everything he’s said has been thoroughly debunked over and over and over.

  33. #33 Skepticat
    June 5, 2009

    Amen – great post.

  34. #34 HCN
    June 5, 2009

    Michael Simpson said “I have no patience for Dullman, because I’ve battled him for 4 years across various places (I used to use a nom de blog, much like Orac and PalMD, so you’re not going to be able to trace this name to those battles). Dana is anti-science. Dana pushes pseudoscience. This isn’t name calling, it’s identifying him accurately.”

    Along with Orac’s blog, and ScienceBasedMedicine you can find Dullman’s stuff eviscerated on the Quackometer blog and on the JREF forums (just look for the at least two thread with “fun with Dana Ullman” in the title).

  35. #35 Dana Ullman
    June 5, 2009

    Classic! I’m called “anti-science” despite the fact that I post well-controlled research is published in high-impact journals, and you folks provide insignificant critique, other than “homeopathy cannot work.”

    And all of the above talk about 2% alcohol is a tad meaningless when a similar alcohol control was provided. Duh.

    You folks confuse the quantity of your posts with quality.

    I am still waiting for SOMEONE to explain how and why controls have no impact on these cell cultures, while many of the homeopathic medicines did. Please explain.

    Who is anti-science now?

  36. #36 HCN
    June 6, 2009

    Dana, seriously no one takes you seriously. You have become just a freak act. None of the “science” you post as evidence is worth discussing.

  37. #37 James Pannozzi
    June 7, 2009

    @HCN and Simpson and Prolix

    Mr. Simpson stated:
    “Typical of your strawman argumentative methodology, you attack me rather than try to show some semblance of scientific reasoning. You’ve been debunked in so many locations by so many different individuals, I find no reason to pile on to dismissing your science denialism. Your lack of knowledge has been quite reasonably been demolished here”

    Unfortunately, the link given has a cartoon against Homeopathy and YET MORE innuendo against Ullman. I would ask our scientifically trained biochemist Simpson if he has anything other than links to cartoons and yet more innuendo against Ullman to support his dismissal of Homeopathy. Other than more juvenile cartoons, appeals to authority and ad hominems and YET MORE links.

    @HCN
    You would have us believe that the research posted by Dana, and which was produced at a cancer research institute, is totally unworthy of consideration, or as HCN put it, not worth discussing.
    Really? I’ll the patients there are very interested that the discussions happen.

    @Prolix
    Prolix stated:
    “Skeptic claims there is no evidence to prove homeopathy. Supporter produces study. Skeptic says study is flawed, and besides doesn’t prove what it’s supposed to. Flurry of name calling ensues. Welcome to the scientific community, where matters a fact are decided calmly and rationally.”

    Prolix is quite correct – it seems that every time Ullman or any other supporter of Homeopathy offers research for discussion, it is either ignored or insulted. The scientific discussion never seems to happen… by design. I’m starting to get the impression that our “scientific” skeptics here have NO ANSWER to the questions and research that Ullman is raising, to the research of Ennis, to the utilization of Homeopathy by thousands, to the disproof in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology that it is no better than placebo.
    No answer at all… except more innuendo and preremptory dismissal.

    It gets MUCH WORSE. Gorski goes out of his way to attack a brilliant MD and innovator, Dr. Niemtzow, who has led the way to introducing Acupuncture to the military and is training Doctors in its use. PalMD goes on a long tirade about who should be called “Doctor”, excoriating a woman Homeopath and contributor to Huffington Post and questioning which Homeopathy school she went to to get the title of “Doctor”….completely overlooking the fact that she is also an Acupuncturist, and in the state of Florida, which passed freedom of medical choice laws (as have other states), she is a primary care physician and, by law, a (surprise!!) Doctor.
    AbelPharmboy goes so far as to insult everyone connected with Homeopathy, MD’s that are Homeopaths, Homeopathic physicians, Chemists, Biochemists, Physicists, Material Scientists, claiming that they are engaged in fraud.

    This is not about just Homeopathy or Acupuncture. It is about the knee jerk reaction from health care professionals who have fallen under the influence of special interests, quite powerful special interests, who feel threatened and uncomfortable with the erosion of their sacrosanct and self defined hegemony – it is about the loss of control by special interests, long used to having their own way and of being a force to be reckoned with in congress and in state legislatures, who are ready to attack, deny and insult any modality which is felt to threaten their already shaky position.
    It is about discrediting some aspects of alternative medicine, some of which has not yet even had its research anywhere near completion.
    It is NOT at all about “science”.

    It need not be this way – we should ALL be united, in supporting integrative medicine, in excising the profiteering plunderers known as the “health care insurance” (SIC!) industry and in seeing to it that our vitally needed MD’s and Nurses and other health professionals are never ever arrested and removed from the congress, because they are protesting its refusal to even consider the single payer option in health care reform.

    The reforms will come – the irony is that the greater the hysteria against alternative medicine, the more the reaction will be to investigate and use it, precisely because people have already seen the darker aspect of blind reliance on ill defined standards, supposed “evidence” and self serving industry propaganda, and the terrible consequences to which that leads.

  38. #38 MonkeyPox
    June 7, 2009

    PalMD goes on a long tirade about who should be called “Doctor”, excoriating a woman Homeopath and contributor to Huffington Post and questioning which Homeopathy school she went to to get the title of “Doctor”….completely overlooking the fact that she is also an Acupuncturist,

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    (vomits from laughing so hard)

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    (choking again)

    HAHAHAHAHAHA

  39. #39 daedalus2u
    June 7, 2009

    Oh “the irony” is right.

    ”It is about discrediting some aspects of alternative medicine, some of which has not yet even had its research anywhere near completion.”

    When the research has been done, and then IF “alternative medicine” has been shown to work, then the science based medicine MDs will accept and use it as a part of conventional medicine, the kind that has been shown to work and be safe and effective.

    Until then it isn’t alternative medicine, is it just crap that hasn’t been shown to work and be safe and effective.

  40. #40 Dana Ullman
    June 7, 2009

    HCN: No substance, no logic, no science…and yet, you have the chutzpah to think that you’re defending medicine/science. A tad ironic, eh?

    I quote research. You throw names. Ooooo.

  41. #41 LanceR, JSG
    June 7, 2009

    See, Dana, that’s the point. You did *not* cite valid research. You never do. You cherry-pick studies that can be twisted to say what you want, and ignore the 99% that points out the idiocy of your claims.

    If you want to be taken seriously, you’re going to need more than “You big meanie! Calling me names! That proves I’m right!” No… it just proves that someone thinks you’re an asshole.

    Perhaps you need a refresher on ad hominem fallacies. If Joe says “You’re an asshole, therefore you’re wrong.” that would be fallacious. If Joe says “You’re wrong, *and* you’re an asshole” that would not. Especially when Joe has just spent quite a bit of time ripping your arguments apart for the fallacious pile of garbage that they are.

    Do try to keep up with the adults. “You’re a big meanie, therefore I’m right” is so 4th grade.

  42. #42 Eric Jackson
    June 8, 2009

    Dana, we’ve all seen your previous behavior, both in the wikipedia fiasco, and on other blogs. The cherry picking, the constant barrage of red herrings and attempting to sidetrack discussion into those carefully picked studies. It’s all worth absolutely nothing.

    I can offer a little critique of the study, as I’m familiar with some of the techniques used.

    The tryptan blue counting of cell viability: why on earth would they use this? This is the sort of thing you make undergraduates do in low-grade underfunded labs. It’s tricky, massively prone to human error and just messy handling. Why not use flow cytometry? It’s infinitely more accurate, easier to use and lets you work with much larger samples quickly. Sure, they may not have the machine, but it’s a staple of this sort of science.

    The MTT assay is another one I’ve done. It also messy, and prone to just acting strangely for just no reason. To get even a vague idea of the apoptotic potential, you need to run at least a half dozen samples per cell type per tested solution. For something involving publication, I wouldn’t be comfortable without running each sample at least a dozen times. MTT is useful because it’s very fast, very cheap, but it’s also prone to just messing up. In testing this sort of sample for apoptotic potential, you’ll often run into one or two wells that will just fail to undergo the proper color change reaction. Variations in cell viability, the availability of the mitochondrial enzymes that this assay relies on can all mess this up. If you don’t inoculate a particular well with a good, viable population initially, it botches all the results. Hence why you’d want to run multiple samples – there’s no downside to that, you’re working in a 96 well plate with dirt cheap supplies. According to their paper they seem to have run a -single- sample per cell type and per solution. It’s not clear, because they don’t supply any of the data needed to show exactly what they did.

  43. #43 Dana Ullman
    June 8, 2009

    My copy of this paper says that the L929 cells were seeded in 96-well flat-bottom titer plates. If MTT is so “messy,” why would the control tests consistently show no effect, while many of the potentized doses and the Mother tincture doses have measureable effects?

    And please avoid the mis-informed statements that homeopaths would assume a greater effect from the potentized dose as compared to the Mother tincture. My question is how or why would the potentized dose have ANY effect…unless there is something in the potentized dose that has a medicinal effect?

    Curious minds want to know…

  44. #44 D. C. Sessions
    June 8, 2009

    My copy of this paper says that the L929 cells were seeded in 96-well flat-bottom titer plates. If MTT is so “messy,” why would the control tests consistently show no effect, while many of the potentized doses and the Mother tincture doses have measureable effects?

    Well, let me take a guess. When one of my lab students hands in results which are more consistent than the known repeatability of the instrumentation, something happens deep in my brain. In the dark recesses dating back through generations of pedagogical ancestors, the answer comes up: “We’ve seen this happen before.”

  45. #45 Tsu Dho Nimh
    June 9, 2009

    please avoid the mis-informed statements that homeopaths would assume a greater effect from the potentized dose as compared to the Mother tincture

    Uh … you did study homeopathy, didn’t you? Remember the Principle of Infinitesimals, which states that the higher the dilution, the greater the effect?

  46. #46 Dana Ullman
    June 9, 2009

    Tsu…I predicted an uninformed response such as yours. Homeopaths assert that there is a biphasic response to dose, not a linear response. Thanx for falling into my trap and proving your inadequate understanding of homeopathy (and your over-simplification of it!).

    I suggest that the really scientifically-minded ones here review the couple of thousand trials on hormesis to understand and appreciate the biphasic response and the power of infinitesimal doses. But heck, too many people hear don’t do their homework and just blow hot air (sad, but true). You actually might learn something today.

  47. #47 LanceR, JSG
    June 9, 2009

    Right… when busted on your absolute bullsh*t, generate ever increasing levels of bullsh*t to cover!

    Brilliant!

    BTW, those studies *really* don’t say what you think they say…

  48. #48 Tsu Dho Nimh
    June 9, 2009

    Dana … hormesis is well understood. But hormesis is not homeopathy.

    There is no chance of hormesis happening with a homeopathic dilution because there is no substance left after the dilutin is over.

  49. #49 Dana Ullman
    June 10, 2009

    Tsu…Thanx for acknowledging that hormesis is “well understood.” I agree. It verifies the power of extremely small doses of certain substances on certain systems. The doses tested in hormesis research are commonly the doses of homeopathic medicines sold commonly over-the-counter (3X, 6X, 12X, 18X or 3C, 6C, 9C).

    People who write or speak against homeopathy are simply SLOPPY thinkers. It is akin to someone who is against all surgery or all vaccination (it is plain stupid).

  50. #50 HCN
    June 10, 2009

    Brave Sir Dana, why do you think that any one who understands basic chemistry cares about what you write about?

  51. #51 Joe
    June 10, 2009

    I call DUllman’s law- Dana gets laughed out of the room.

  52. #52 James Pannozzi
    June 10, 2009

    Joe, Tsu HCN, Simpson et al. First you tell us that you support science and “evidence” but, as Prolix said, when Dana offers details, research and facts about all most of you have to offer is ridicule or ad hominems. Jackson asks why did the experimenters cited by Dana Ullman not use flow cytometry? OK, M. Ennis’ experiment did use it – and clearly showed to her consternation (she remains, as far as I know, a Homeopathy skeptic), that a high dilution solution in which all molecules of a stimulant had been diluted away, was still causing a biological effect as though the stimulant molecules were still there (Inflammation Research vol 53, p181). No doubt, some OTHER excuse will be found to dismiss her results, and those of Sainte-Laude, Belon, and others who repeated it. Perhaps mention will be made of the famous BBC documentary which purported to “repeat” her experiment but whose producers, after persistent questioning from Ennis, finally admitted that they had never intended to repeat her experiment despite the documentary announcer’s statement that it did.

    Was it Herr Simpson who said that he admitted he did not know all there was to know about chemistry but he was certain that electrons in water could not carry the memory of anything? Unfortunately the arguments for water memory theory that I’ve seen involve water molecule clusters, not electrons as the speculatively possible mechanism.

    Tsu acknowledges Hormesis but then shuts of his thinking immediately because some high dilution solutions in Homeopathy dilute past the Avogadro limit. NOTHING THERE, end of story, eh Tsu?

    These all seem to be variations on the “it’s just water” argument against Homeopathy which Dr. Rustum Roy claims to have refuted by noting that graphite and diamond are very different things, one very soft, the other very hard and yet….”it’s just Carbon!!”. It being structure as well as composition that determines properties, the fact that we do not know all there is to know about the structure of water, bodes ill for the easy and contemptuous dismissal which several of you have made – particularly in the light of experiments clearly showing biological effects from the “just water”.

    As with the stomach ulcers being caused by bacteria that “could not possibly be there”, perhaps more attention should be given to the repeated existence of experimental and scientifically unexplainable anomalies that keep appearing in the literature and less effort at dismissing them without a second thought.

  53. #53 Tsu Dho Nimh
    June 10, 2009

    Dana said, “The doses tested in hormesis research are commonly the doses of homeopathic medicines sold commonly over-the-counter (3X, 6X, 12X, 18X or 3C, 6C, 9C).

    3x of what? 9C of what? What is the concentration of the “mother tincture” or other start point?

    9C is a 1e-18 dilution of the mother tincture (which itself is probably not a pure substance). How many molecules of your substance are going to be in the droplet of water you put onto the lactose pill or under your tongue?

  54. #54 Tsu Dho Nimh
    June 10, 2009

    @52 “As with the stomach ulcers being caused by bacteria that “could not possibly be there”, perhaps more attention should be given

    The bacteria were known to be there for a long time – they were first reported in 1875 but the scientists couldn’t culture them. They were reported again as Vibrio rugula in 1899, discussed briefly in the early partt of the 1900s as the possible cause of peptic disease, but a large 1954 study failed to show them in biopsies (for whatever reason, the study is not available to me) so they were shoved into the filing cabinet until Marshall revived the interest AND figured out how to culture them.

  55. #55 LanceR, JSG
    June 10, 2009

    Wow. Completely OT, but I’ve been reading that name for ages now, and just now twigged… Tsu Dho Nimh. Good one.

    I really need more coffee.

  56. #56 D. C. Sessions
    June 10, 2009

    LanceR, you should get a load of her Tarzan/Jane schtick: “Tsu, me!”

  57. #57 HCN
    June 10, 2009

    Personally, I always enjoy the facts she brings (for example what she wrote above). Many are obscure, they are always interesting, and it is kind of scary.

    Plus, while I was still on Usenet someone (Jan Drew, who I had killfiled) claimed that I was Tsu Dho Nimh. I thanked her for the compliment.

  58. #58 D. C. Sessions
    June 10, 2009

    Personally, I always enjoy the facts she brings (for example what she wrote above). Many are obscure, they are always interesting, and it is kind of scary.

    “Always interesting” is a good summary for her. If you had formed some other opinion, let me correct it: she is quite dear to me indeed.

  59. #59 Tsu Dho Nimh
    June 10, 2009

    Lance – did I hear a ::headdesk:: ? It sounded like it hurt.

    ****************

    HCN – I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.

    That’s what the Beatles told me.

  60. #60 LanceR, JSG
    June 10, 2009

    Goo goo gajoob.

    I, apparently, *am* the walrus.

  61. #61 Dr. Matthew
    June 18, 2009

    Ack – I hate the following type of argument:

    “Critics claim that homeopathic remedies are so diluted, the only benefit received is placebo, a positive outcome that may be imagined.”

    This is flatly wrong. A placebo effect is not the imagining of a positive outcome, it’s an actual positive outcome due, by some perspectives, to the belief by patients or doctors that a change *should* occur due to the intervention. As the Skeptic’s Dictionary definition begins:

    “The placebo effect is the measurable, observable, or felt improvement in health or behavior not attributable to a medication or invasive treatment that has been administered.”

    The improvement is not the imagined part in placebo. It’s the imagining that the cause for the positive change is the intervention.

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